September 27, 2009

Fall!  This is my favorite time of the year – warm days and cool nights that allow the sap of trees to store more sugars and fruit such as grapes to become sweeter; a time when the shadows become longer and the leaves on the hardwood trees are starting to change color indicative of their inevitable senescence; harvest of agricultural commodities is in full swing; and, of course, our campus is full of young people – the lifeblood of our college.

I arrived on campus in late July – Summer – a time when I would run into the occasional graduate student, busy with their dissertation or thesis research, and the occasional undergraduate student engaged in experiential research or holding down a job on campus to earn a living and save money for tuition.  With the arrival of Fall, the campus is bustling with young people.  There are numerous orientation programs for the students, and many are “rushing” for their fraternities and sororities.  Students are meeting with advisors and checking on courses.  Freshmen and transfer students are learning about our college and making new friends; while the senior classmen are renewing old friendships or making new ones.

There are orientations as well for new faculty and staff.  Departments and colleges are holding “retreats” where faculty and staff are undertaking an in depth conversation on the accomplishments of the past year, and the challenges and teaching, research, and Extension needs for the upcoming year.  I have met a number of our new faculty – our seed corn, as they are the future of our college – and the skills they bring in research or teaching or Extension are awesome.

Artist:  Jay Noller
Artist: Jay Noller

Many of them have amazing avocational interests in music, art, painting, sculpting, hiking, cooking, gardening, mountain climbing, etc.  One new faculty member I met plays in a band; another plays medieval music on a lap harp.

Looking for answers
Looking for answers

Whether it is faculty in Food Science and Technology who are undertaking research and extending knowledge on adding value to the agricultural commodities by converting to new food products or beverages or better ways of preserving them, or faculty in Environmental and Molecular Toxicology who work on coming up with ways to protect our environment or our health, or faculty in Fisheries and Wildlife discovering new ways of conserving our natural resources – they all exhibit an intensity of commitment to changing the future of our agricultural, food, and natural resources enterprise, making a difference. Right here, right now.

During University Day, President Ed Ray presented awards of excellence to OSU faculty and staff – several in our college were recognized for excellence in advising, research, Extension, or service, including David Williams, Carol Mallory-Smith, Melody Putnam, and Lynda Ciufetti. These faculty, like the many other faculty and staff who have been recognized by their peers at other venues, are changing the future.  Right here, right now.

Gelato Social for Students
Gelato Social for Students

The college hosted a gelato social to welcome students back for the Fall term.  I had the pleasure of meeting a number of them – freshmen and upper classmen – majoring in everything from Agricultural Business Management to Range Ecology and Management.  I learned of the many student clubs we have – Alpha Zeta to the Young Cattlemen’s Association.  It was great talking to these young men and women.  Many of them have had wonderful experiences in the summer – working on farms, with fish and wildlife, in wineries, on golf courses, and in other endeavors relevant to their education.

Fall enrollment in our college in general has increased significantly, particularly in Animal Science and in the Pre-Veterinary Option.  As I have traveled around the state, some of our stakeholders have expressed concern that we are not protecting the interests of traditional agriculture.  I have explained to them that while we are indeed seeing significant increases in other majors and options, we continue to recruit and educate students in the traditional agricultural disciplines as well.  In my mind, there is no conflict in catering to the increasingly diverse student body interested in attending our college, while protecting the traditional agricultural interests.  As a matter of fact, a number of students who come into our Animal Science department to study Pre-Vet are exposed to issues related to livestock animals and agriculture as well.  These Pre-Vet students would likely never get exposed to traditional agriculture were they not to come to our college.  I see this as a win-win situation, because we are seeing increased enrollments, which has an impact on state funding which is based on student numbers, and the students from non-traditional backgrounds are getting exposed to agriculture, increasing their appreciation of agriculture and, thus, more likely to understand and support humanity’s need for agriculture, i.e., to grow our crops and livestock, to feed the burgeoning population.

Welcome to a new academic year
Welcome to a new academic year

In welcoming the students at the gelato social I promised them that our college was about educating them and to equip them with the knowledge and tools to change the future.  Right here, right now.

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